Japan cruised to victory over Korea on Sunday night to win the FIBA Asia Championship for Women for the first time since 1970 and China defeated Chinese Taipei in the battle for bronze to qualify for the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women.
China, who led for much of their Semi-Final against Korea on Saturday before losing their lead in the fourth quarter, did just enough to win 61-53 against Chinese Taipei.
Gao Song had 22 points and Lu Wen, named to the ‘Best Five’ at the end of the tournament, had six of the team’s eight steals.
Japan put an exclamation point on their unbeaten campaign with a 65-43 victory over Korea in the Final.
The Japanese led by as many as 26 points and while Korea reduced the arrears to 10 in the second half, Tomohide Utsumi’s side won comfortably in the end.
Ramu Tokashiki put the finishing touches on a dominating tournament with 20 points and 18 rebounds for Japan.
Named MVP of the tournament, Tokashiki, Japan point guard Asami Yoshida and power forward Yuka Mamiya were also selected to the ‘Best Five’ along with Beon Yeon Ha of Korea.
“We haven’t won this for more than 40 years, so it’s a big surprise for all Japanese basketball fans,” Utsumi said.
“We came to this tournament to win.”
Other than needing overtime to beat Korea, 78-71, in the Preliminary Round, Japan were convincing winners in the rest of the their games.
They broke open a tight game late in the first quarter and had a 37-16 lead by half-time.
Mamiya had 12 of her 19 points at the break and Tokashiki eight points and 11 rebounds.
Yoshida, meanwhile, had three steals by the end of the opening quarter.
Korea’s defense started to cause problems for Japan in the third quarter, with Lee Seungah and Beon each coming up with two of the team’s nine steals in the frame.
Despite having their advantage cut to 10, Japan were able to re-establish a 48-34 lead and the closest Korea got the rest of the way was 12.
After celebrating their victory on the court and then being presented with gold medals, Japan’s players retreated to the locker room.
When they re-emerged, there were nothing but smiles.
“It’s the first title in 43 years, since 1970, so everybody is excited and happy,” captain Yuko Oga said.
“Our young players are good, everyone has a good heart and we play the Japan way, a great team.”
Tokashiki is one of the greatest talents ever to come from Japan.
She was confident from start to finish, and it made a huge difference for the team.
“I thought we could win this gold before the tournament,” she said.
“To be honest, I didn’t even know until someone told me before the tournament that it had been 43 years since Japan had won.”
While China weren’t as happy as Japan, they were nevertheless relieved to make it to third place and qualify for the World Championship for Women in Turkey.
“Our players desperately need to play at the World Championship,” China coach Tom Maher said.
“They need that experience. This team showed here it was very immature. We can’t run plays. When they switch, we don’t see the counters.
“You just have to learn that through experience. This has been great for us and the World Championship will be great for our experience.”
Maher stressed that China have entered a new era and that there are going to be growing pains.
“It’s a new team, so you move on from the great players that have retired,” he said.
“We’re very thankful to Chen Nan for coming and giving us leadership. Miao (Lijie) was going to come and others but they’re too damaged and it’s time to move on and make a new generation of players.
“It’s not so much about what we’ve lost, it’s about what’s new and we have to find a good way of developing the individual talent of players but also they have to find a way to play together.
“We really struggled to use our talent today (against Chinese Taipei) in a team way .
“They (Chinese players) wanted to win so they just one on five the whole time. That’s just clearly inexperience.”